Despite successes, bowling team receives little attention
February 19, 2007 —
With five players ranked among the top 50 collegiate bowlers in the nation, it's no wonder SVSU's bowling team is one of the best in the country. Their moments to shine come every weekend as they defeat just about every college team, including Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and cross-state rival Grand Valley.
This weekend was no different as they headed out to Indiana to try to win their sixteenth consecutive tournament this year.
Best in the nation
Bowling coach Dan Dorion is very enthusiastic about his team and its performance.
"In the U.S. we are acknowledged as one of the very best programs," he says. "It's an honor and a privilege to go represent SVSU at national championships."
Last year marked the third time SVSU bowlers have been crowned national champions. The A-Team this year, which includes sophomore Dan MacLelland, freshman J.R. Raymond, and junior Toby Sidle, seems to be up to the challenge again.
MacLelland currently ranks fourth in the nation for his average of 209 leading Dorion to refer to him as the "horse" of the team. Raymond ranks ninth with an average of 205, and Sidle is sixteenth with a 202 average.
Living in obscurity
However, many of the students at SVSU don't know the school has a bowling team, let alone that it is top in the nation.
"It's just kind of frustrating we don't get the recognition we deserve," Sidle said.
Like Sidle, many other bowlers come to SVSU primarily because of the bowling team. Since the University is the best in the nation, the bowlers wish more of their peers knew how much hard work they put into winning.
According to some members of the team, the University doesn't promote the success of the bowling team as much as it does other programs.
"There are only two national championship banners in the Ryder Center and that's for bowling," Dorion said, "and another one's coming."
MacLelland mentioned the success of Bill O'Neil, a bowler for the team that graduated in 2004.
"He's arguably the best bowler in college bowling ever...and his picture is not up in that hallway. I don't agree with it. People don't look at bowling the way we do," he said.
Members of the team, however, believe they get plenty of coverage outside of campus.
"In the bowling community, people know us," Raymond said. "We're well known."
Practice makes perfect
As far as practice goes, the bowlers normally go at their convenience, as there are no scheduled practice times. Zion Lanes in Saginaw is the official practice space for the team. Many bowlers are also involved with leagues, mainly at Candlelight Lanes in Bridgeport and Northern Lanes in Sanford. Bowlers also have opportunities to develop in tournaments, too.
"In order to get skills you have to go to tournaments," Dorion said.
One important conference to the team each year is the American Heartland Intercollegiate Bowling Conference (AHIBC). There are roughly 40 teams in the conference with four tournaments per year. SVSU has won this conference three consecutive years in a row.
"We've won that since it's been in existence," Sidle said.
This year, an additional tournament was added to the AHIBC, which will take place in March.
"They try to change the format constantly so we don't win it," MacLelland said.
The most important tournament is the Intercollegiate Bowling Championships (IBC), where 16 teams compete for the national title. There are no divisions in college bowling, and SVSU's main rivals are Wichita State University and Lindenwood University, who compete in many of the same tournaments SVSU does.
Normally, the seven or eight best players go to every tournament. The next seven will go to roughly half of the tournaments, and the rest of the team will go to six of them.
"With the budget we have we can only afford to bring so many people to so many tournaments," MacLelland said.
The team normally either drives their own vehicles to tournaments or pays to rent SVSU busses.
"I like being on the road," Sidle says, "although I wish our modes of transportation would be better."
While practicing, bowlers normally work on playing different parts of the lane, as well as the basic aspects of the game, such as mechanics and fundamentals.
Recruiting, team building
The team is already trying to form a new roster for next year. Each year, the University offers five out-of-state tuition waivers for bowlers to come and roll for SVSU.
One current bowler the team is trying to scout is Raphael Medina, a student all the way from Venezuela.
Although SVSU does offer more in the financial department than other schools, it still isn't quite enough to be able to scout more players.
"We as members just can't go in and say, 'hey, give us more money,'" Raymond said.
According to Dorion, about $4,000 is allocated by the University for bowling scholarships. Since there are no full rides offered, it can be difficult to convince players to come here, even though SVSU is the best.
"We don't bring in money through the school, but we're bringing in our name throughout the country in bowling," MacLelland said.
The bowlers do hold many of their own fundraisers, and there are also companies that give them discounts on equipment, such as Hammer.
There are no centers in the area for the bowling team to host tournaments, so very few students or faculty members can even watch the bowlers. Their shortest trip to tournaments clocks in at around three to four hours. Many of the tournaments are held south of Michigan.
Although the team has obstacles to overcome in terms of funding and popularity, it tries to concentrate on winning.
"If we're not first, then we have to work on something," MacLelland says. "We went to nationals and proved to everyone that we're number one."